QA257 QUESTION: I am asking this question for the family group. Recently the question has come up in regard to smoking pot among children. It has become widespread and almost legal: one can smoke it at home, but one cannot buy it. It is almost as if the law was saying, “Smoke it, but we don’t want to know about it.” Pot is going the way alcohol went during prohibition. We know the negative side of pot. I feel totally against it and so do the parents.
What has come out of the family group is that the children do not want to share with their parents what they are doing, out of fear of punishment. The parents, on the other hand, feel frustrated and want to harness the children. So the children lie. We suggested that the parents not punish the children and that the children not lie. They agreed to do this. But not for long.
The children see that pot is a substitute for feelings and openness, but they also realize the feelings of insecurity under these circumstances. This is where we feel at a loss. Do the children want the parents to set limits? Guidelines? We want to establish a balance of sharing and truth, without judgement and harshness. Could you please help us about this?
I have another question, or perhaps a request. I believe that the family group dynamics are extremely exciting, particularly in terms of the Pathwork. In one arena, all the Pathwork principles seem to come to life: childhood hurts recreated, sexual feelings among children and parents, it is as if the child within us is alive in front of our eyes. We share back and forth, from child to adult, from adult to child, with most often the wisdom coming from the child. How wonderful it is to be able to communicate on this level. All the families have felt grateful to be able to communicate in truth and beauty and in love.
What I am requesting is either an entire lecture for all the family groups, or simply, at this time, to give us some guidelines. A lot of material has been written on this pioneering form of help, with the entire family present, but most of it is on the clinical level. I would like to hear some heartfelt ideas on this new form of healing, and what I think might become the group format of the future.
ANSWER: There are several issues contained in your first question. Number one, the issue of drugs itself. Number two, the issue of, “If you make me pay the consequences, I shall lie to you.” Number three, the issue of “Are limits necessary and even desired by the child, at least unconsciously, and often even quite consciously?”
First let us deal with the question of approach, which will cut across all these three points. If you approach punishment in the spirit of depriving the child of a pleasure because he or she has been bad, the problem must accelerate. You are then faced with the conflict of either being a punitive, feared, lied to authority, or an indulgent, guilty, fearful one, who cannot give the child security.
The approach must be to teach. You must teach that repeated indulgence is harmful. You need to explain why it is harmful, and how. You need, most important of all, to expose one of the major reasons why this infringement is being indulged in, which is the peer pressure, the fear of being different, of missing out, of being accused of being a sissy, etcetera.
You need to make clear how much more courage it takes to refute childish challenges of peer pressure, how much more adult and strong it is to do that which one really wants – in the long run. Inquire to what extent it is truly enjoyed. Many times the answer will be that the pleasure is vastly overrated; however, this is not easily admitted, especially when the negative results that follow in the long run are not immediately recognized.
You need to explain how the repeated indulgence de-energizes, deactivates, and blurs the faculties of the mind, but that these results do not show immediately. Give the choice. Teach the child that it must make its choices, and what the results are going to be. The wish that a momentary pleasure may not have an undesirable result later does not eliminate the reality that this is often so. Teach reality.
Also, you must understand and make clear to the child that the choice of lying in order to avoid consequences does not really avoid consequences, perhaps of a different kind. You should set limits as a parent, even if you are being lied to. The more alert and clear you are – because you, yourself are clear about these principles – the less of a stake you will have to avoid dealing with these issues, and therefore the more you will know when the child is being honest and when not.
You also need to accept that in the last analysis the child is his or her own entity and that you cannot prevent this entity from making wrong choices and suffering consequences. Even while still a child, choices are being made. This too has to be taught. There is not enough of such teaching going on.
Instead, there is a lot of pressure on the part of parents, Helpers, and teachers to make the child do the right thing in order to avoid dealing with the consequences – in order to avoid dealing with the conflict and the guilt of either being too strict or being too lenient.
In answer to your second question, there may come a time when it will be appropriate and helpful to give such a lecture. At the moment this is not the case. What I said about teaching, in answer to your first question, is what I strongly advise to expand.
You must teach in the spirit of a patient guide, rather than as a boring lecturer, if you know what I mean. Your teaching should be interesting to the child. You could easily make it so if you use all your faculties. I address these words to all parents, Helpers and teachers.